It’s a wonderful world. Wonderful. And the internet too, that’s great.
‘You’ve got to be in it to win it.’ as a lovely chap named Stephen reminds me on a weekly basis. And how right he is. Which is why I was glad I was ‘in it’, when I got an email announcing I had won. At first, I didn’t believe it. It looked like spam. Surely it was spam? A mistake? A phishing email? Just take a look for yourself:
A foreign name, ;-] as the subject line and an email with cut-and-paste fields. Alarm bells were ringing. But then logic kicked in. No, wait. I did enter that competition and how would a scammer get my email address? This has to be real. And there’s a link too! Ok. So I check the link and yep, my name is there. Plain to see. http://www.androidpolice.com/2012/01/02/nexus-new-years-worldwide-ultimate-giveaway-win-one-of-ten-yes-ten-galaxy-nexuses-from-avast-and-android-police/ I’m a winner!
Good start to the year!
Now, before I go any further, I’ll tell you a story. I am an Android fanboy. I have been for a year. I’ve been a Google lover for longer than that, but after moving from a Blackberry Curve to a HTC Desire HD, I fell in love. However, I made the mistake of taking up a 24 month contract and although there’s nothing wrong with the Desire HD as such, I’d seen the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and had been lusting after it. But with a year left to go on my contract, I couldn’t really justify £500 just to get a new phone. I was drawn in though by the adverts, the features and just the sheer awesomeness of it. The Galaxy Nexus is instantly appealing to any Android fan because it’s the standard Android phone. There are no manufacturer extras (like HTC Sense) which will stop you getting updates, no, the Galaxy Nexus gets the official Android updates straight from Google. Which is brilliant.
There are plenty of other features which are instantly appealing. The panoramic camera which automatically stitches together snaps to make one long picture, the gimmicky face unlock which makes getting into your phone fun, Android Beam, the sexy interface, the speed. There’s plenty to love. But I couldn’t have one.
So I entered the competition and forgot about it. I knew I’d never win, I never win anything. That’s life. But then I did win and what a day that was! Now I’ve had the Galaxy Nexus for a while, so I’m going to write a review from the perspective of an Android lover who won the awesome phone he was lusting after.
Now, I’m not going to go into massive detail, because there are plenty of other reviews out there from professionals who do it properly and in-depth. Instead, I’ll just tell you what I like.
If you’d rather watch than read, then I can recommend these two videos:
Anyway, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus arrived at work, and I was quite pleased.
Alas, my wife had just renewed her contract and got one that way, so it wasn’t the first time I’d seen one in the flesh (so to speak) but it was mine. My first impressions were much like everyone else’s and you’ll see this a lot on the web – it’s massive, it’s light and it feels cheap. I think I need to clarify that quite quickly, especially that last point. It feels cheap because it’s made mostly of plastic, but once you turn the screen on, you see the value. It has a truly magnificent screen that has an amazing resolution (1280 x 720p) which, when you think about it, is pretty impressive. That’s nearly a full HD screen on a 4.65″ screen. Imagine if it was blown up to the size of your TV while maintaining that ratio of pixels – you’d be looking at something that would make your current HD TV look like a black and white set from the 1950′s.
No, once you turn it on, the quality is instantly apparent. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus doesn’t care about looking flash or shiny. It’s not a fashion statement, it’s just an amazingly brilliant product. Sure, there are complaints – there’s only 16gb of internal storage (unless you’re lucky enough to be American in which case you can get 32gb) and there’s no SD card slot. The camera is a measly 5mp (but let’s be honest, if you want amazing pictures, you won’t be using your phone) and it’s brown, but otherwise, it’s a work of art.
Compared to the HTC Desire HD, the screen isn’t a great deal bigger. It is taller and thus won’t fit properly in the pouch I used to use for the Desire HD, but it isn’t offensively huge and it just works really well. It’s instantly obvious that there’s a clarity and quality to the screen that you won’t see elsewhere. It’s vibrant, impressive and beautiful – especially if you turn off automatic brightness and whack it up to maximum.
What’s so good?
What’s the difference between the Nexus and the Desire HD? Well, plenty. For a start, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is running Ice Cream Sandwich which is version 4 of the Android operating system, while HTC’s lack of updates leaves the Desire HD stuck at 2.35 (for the moment). This in itself was a treat, but not the only benefit. As a test, we put my new phone next to my colleagues rooted Desire (with ICS running) and checked to see the difference.
The Galaxy Nexus was visibly quicker and smoother between windows and applications. Impressively so. I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by the Galaxy Nexus after using the Desire HD as it was only a year old and had been a good spec when I bought it, but I wasn’t let down by the Galaxy Nexus either. The first thing I noticed was web pages seemed to render more quickly, even with only G signal, which I was both impressed and surprised by. It might less time waiting on the train for pages to load.
Multi-tasking seemed to work well too, though that was the case on the Desire as well. But the introduction of new features meant my old apps were no longer necessary. You don’t need advanced task killer on the Galaxy Nexus, pressing the application button (bottom right) brings up the current apps running and you can just swipe them off to close them. You don’t need an app to monitor your data – there’s data usage built into the operating system so you can set data limits, restrict background data and more. It’s just sleek and sexy.
One of my favourite new features isn’t phone specific, but belongs to the OS and that’s screenshots. Pressing and holding both the power button and the volume down button at the same time snaps a pic of what you’re looking at on screen which makes it handy to show off your apps or current setup.
After tweaking a bit, this is what my initial home screen looked like:
You have 5 home screens on which to arrange apps and (resizable) widgets, but a new addition to Android is the ability to be able to drop apps on top of each other and create folders. I’ve got one for email, one for Google apps, one for social and one for games. The default buttons across the bottom include phone, contacts, messaging, web and apps. But you can move and change these to your will. These buttons remain static which ever screen you’re on, so you can always easily access them.
For Android lovers, there’s plenty of interface updates and improvements which just make ICS the best operating system yet, but also work well with the new phone. The music player has been updated with a new look and a graphic equaliser and integrated to work with the lock screen.
The contacts page has been tweaked, so you can easily reach all the necessary info. It’s clever too, it took people/companies I was following on Google+ and stuck all their information right there for me to see – including all the phone numbers, email addresses and more, swipe sideways and you’ve got access to live updates of their social profile which is handy if you don’t want to trawl through all the messages out there to see what one person is saying.
Disturbingly, I found contact phone numbers for people I didn’t even know, taken straight off the web.
The browser seems faster and can import your Google Chrome bookmarks, which is another improvement. With the Labs settings, you can even ditch the traditional address bar when viewing pages and opt for the rather stylish menu system which is accessed by touching the very edge of the screen.
To give the phone a proper test, I bought a film from Google videos and I have to say, the picture was impressive, even if it was on a small phone screen (rather than tablet or PC). It wasn’t an HD video, but you’d have trouble telling with the quality of the screen and the sheer presence of the pixels. It’s delightfully delicious.
But still, one of the best features has to be the panoramic camera, which lets you take wide shots by just moving the camera side to side. If you aren’t careful and steady you can see stitching or blurring, but it’s a very cool toy.
I think if I lost this phone or it was stolen, I’d have to buy it to have it again, it’s just that much better. The only complaints are easily dismissable. Especially the size of the storage – when you consider that Google Music is out there (and hopefully will make it to the UK) then you can store all your songs in the cloud. The battery life is short, but it is with any smart phone and if you turn the brightness down or limit background data and other things, then you can easily manage that – personally I just charge it when I’m at my desk – USB charging makes life easy. As for feeling cheap, that soon fades and you have a fantastic phone which is a joy to own.
I’d highly recommend the Galaxy Nexus to anyone.